Unlike human babies, the gender of puppies cannot be determined with an ultrasound. However, puppies are born fully formed, so it is easy to determine each puppy's sex by checking the location of the genitals anytime after birth. A great time to do this is when you weigh the puppies.
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Determining a puppy's gender
Gently turn over the puppy and examine the lower abdomen. You will see the umbilical cord stump that is approximately halfway up the abdomen. Wash your hands and take care not to touch the umbilicus of a newborn puppy until it fully heals.
Check for the penis or vulva on the puppy to determine the sex. They are each similar in appearance but are positioned differently. The penis of a male puppy has a round, dotlike shape and is located approximately one-third of the way up the belly.
The vulva of a female puppy is located between the hind legs, near the bottom of the puppy's abdomen. It is located below the anus and may have a leaflike shape. Both male and female dogs will have nipples, so don't rely on this feature to identify a female puppy.
Identification tips and considerations
Keep an eye on the mother as you are handling her pups. If she seems overly anxious, return the puppy to her and try again when she is more relaxed. The same is true for the puppy. Return anxious pups to their mother as soon as possible. Don't handle newborn puppies for more than three to six minutes at a time.
The larger the puppy, the easier it will be to identify the gender of the pup. If you are having trouble sexing a puppy, waiting a few days can be helpful, especially for small breeds. You can also consult with your veterinarian for assistance or confirmation until you become more confident with the process.
Female vs. male dog characteristics
Just as breed is not a reliable indicator of temperament, a puppy's gender won't predict the personality of the dog. However, there are some characteristics and behaviors that are more common in one gender compared to the other, especially in dogs that aren't spayed or neutered.
Female dogs tend to have less stable moods as their hormones change during their heat cycle. When they are in heat, they have a tendency to roam, mark, and vocalize excessively. Male dogs tend to mark their territory and may roam if they pick up the scent of a female dog in heat. They are generally more affectionate but may also be more aggressive than females.
There are also behavioral differences in altered dogs. Spayed females tend to be more possessive and stay near their families. They tend to be easier to train but are more withdrawn and independent. Females are also likely to have fewer fights with other animals. Neutered males, on the other hand, tend to be more dominant, assertive, and territorial.
Selecting a new puppy
If this is the only animal in the household, consider which traits are most important to you and opt for a gender based on those considerations. If you already have another dog, getting a puppy of the opposite gender can minimize conflict. Always introduce your current dog to any new dog or puppy to make sure they get along before bringing home the new pup.
Gender is just one consideration when bringing a new pet into your home. Be sure to also consider the characteristics of the breed of the puppy as well as the individual puppy's personality.